Drayton Arms Theatre, London – until 9 November 2018
Intimate and endearing; Baby is relatable for people at every stage of their lives.
Baby is a musical that tells the story of three couples each facing their own troubles with pregnancy and family. Its contemporary musical sound has been composed by David Shire along with witty lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr, whilst this production at the Drayton Arms Theatre is directed by Marc Kelly.
One of the show’s strongest elements is its music. The songs perfectly fit the characters and their life circumstances and are quite refreshing to listen to with so many layered harmonies. Despite being cleverly written, certain themes do feel slightly overplayed at times and border on getting a little annoying when they are being reprised every two or three songs. It sometimes feels unnecessary for the additional reprises to be used although it is at least reassuring that the show has a complete cohesive sound.
However, songs such as ‘Fatherhood Blues’ and ‘The End of Summer’ are both entertaining and heartfelt. Hitting on the various trials and tribulations of starting a family in two completely contrasting ways.
One issue I did face musically, was that because I was sat right in front of the performers, their belting during certain songs was almost deafening and a little too close in order to be fully enjoyed. The vocal talents of the cast are very strong. However, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate them from such a close range. Maybe if the production had been put on in a slightly larger place this wouldn’t have been an issue, but given the small size of the venue, it was a little difficult for my ears to handle people belting directly in front of me.
The sets and costumes for Baby seem minimal and on occasion, a little dull at times. Whilst this allows complete focus to be on the performance of the actors, there are times when it feels like the big alphabet blocks, which dominate the stage, get in the way a little bit. The fact that huge coloured letters on the side of the blocks could be seen during all the scenes sometimes pulled me out of the show and distracted me from what was taking place onstage.
Meanwhile, the costumes was relatively underwhelming. There were certainly hints to the 1980s, with windbreaker jackets and large metal-rimmed glasses however not all of the costumes seemed to reflect this. In fact some of the costumes worn by ensemble characters could easily have been from a number of different eras. Whilst this obviously isn’t a huge issue, it would have been nice if the costumes had been more themed and connected from a timeline perspective.
Aside from these occasional hiccups, the production had a huge amount of charm and character to it. The cast of this production was truly what brought this performance to life. The chemistry between the couples were so genuine and completely believable. Especially the characters of Pam (Laurel Dougall) and Nick Sakarian (Stuart Scott). Their performance of a couple struggling to conceive and the strain that can put on a relationship was incredibly powerful and raw. It was easily my favourite part of the production. However it should be noted that every performer had excellent storytelling and were very engaging for the audience.
I must say that given that the show is marketed as a “rom-com musical” I didn’t feel there were many laughs to be found. There was the occasional joke or passing comment but at no point did comedy feel like a key theme in the story, nor did it need to be. The story was enough on its own without any additional cheap laughs, so maybe using comedy as a way of publicity isn’t the best way to sell a show that is so focused on the importance of love and family.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this production of Baby. This show is able to mirror individuals at so many different stages of life, so much so that both me and my mum felt represented by the different age groups in the show and each came away from it with different moments that stood out to us. It’s a perfect show for older children to experience with their parents or for couples to see together. It has a lot of heart to give, and that’s truly what made the whole experience worthwhile.
By Emily Schofield
Baby continues to play at the Drayton Arms Theatre until the 9th November. For more information visit: https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/baby.